Right, let’s kick this off with the glaring error; the camera does not move to focus on the visible enemy movements as they take their turn. You have to move the camera about manually, which is little consolation to not being directly shown what’s going on.
The tactical map, on the top screen, is used well for showing your firing arcs (but, sadly, those of the enemy) and unit positions. Each unit has a kind of radar that displays any enemy troops within their range, even those out of sight behind cover. Scouts get the longer range and are ideal for “spotting” enemies for the long range guns to give them a pounding. It does remove a lot of the danger from exploring that you get from in other games of the genre, though. During the enemies’ phase you can also “hear” unseen movements as they approach, which helps to make up for the lack of focusing camera.
Speaking of the camera, rotation would have been really nice, even with terrain transparency it’s sometimes awkward to pick a unit out with the stylus.
A good thing about being a stripped down Chaos gate: No grenades, and therefore, no frag spamming cultist bastards. They’ve removed and simplified some of the main conventions of the genre:
-No AP cost for turning, weapon switching, or stance changes. There is also no penalty for moving while crouching.
-Crouching doesn’t appear to increase accuracy. It’s specifically about taking advantage of low cover.
-No separate firing options for accurate shots, or burst fire. Just one attack option that allows you to add AP to the base cost for more accuracy.
-No unit progression from mission to mission, each one is an entirely separate engagement.
-Moving has no effect on accuracy, I think, and there’s no separate walking and running modes.
-No hit percentages, just a coloured line that goes from red to green to indicate accuracy, and black for a blocked line of sight. Simple, but annoyingly vague; I’m still not entirely sure about what does or doesn’t affect accuracy because of it, except distance.
Clearly they’ve tried to make changes to the basic “X-Com” model, rather than try to just crowbar it into the DS, which is a good thing.
The group moving option is nice, but almost useless; with just six units per mission I always found I needed to be moving them individually. The stylus controls take another black mark with this. Tapping on a unit portrait centres the camera on that unit, as you’d expect, but if you already had them selected it groups them with the nearest friendly unit as well. The only group moves I’ve done were all unintentional. Not cool.
My initial impressions of the secondary weapons were that they are overpowered and the AP cost for equipping them wasn’t harsh enough, this was wrong. The first few missions are relatively easy and the plasma guns and sniper rifles are just overkill. Then the game drops a dozen chaos marines with a predator tank on your face, and they have plasma guns too. Suddenly they become really fucking necessary.
Something odd: I can find the stats of the secondary weapons easily, but I’m pretty sure there are none for your basic weapons.
Secondary weapons are mainly of the explosive variety; add that to the destructible terrain and the game really begins to shine. The levels are fairly open, but being able to blow up at least 90% of everything on the map let’s you carve your own path through. Not enough space to drive your tank through? Break out the missile launchers.
This makes movement just as important as cover in this game. Cover is a fleeting comfort that can get shredded very quickly. You are forced to constantly move units from ruin to decaying tank husk as the battlefield evaporates under the hail of bullets and plasma, which keeps the action progressing around the level, as opposed to a drawn-out shooting gallery experience.
Fuck the Beyond Salvation mission. If the objective is “advance to a specific area” I should be able to reach that position without having to kill every other bastard on the map.
Using units to spot for snipers halfway across the map is awesome.
Scouts with a mix of missile launchers and sniper rifles are the shit. Kill the cover then start double tapping Chaos marines.
I’ve check the options menu three times now to check that I haven’t just missed the option to turn music on during missions, it just feels eerie sometimes.